The first spot clearly goes to Brazil. I don't see a single team in this pool as being capable of upsetting the host nation. They better get that stadium done on time. I really think that it will come down to some fast break opportunities. Brazil is just too fast for Croatia, Cameroon or Mexico to handle. That home crowd supporting them will certainly help ease the burden as they coast to 9 points.
The second spot I see going to Mexico. They looked pretty good last Friday against Portugal eventually falling one to nil. It was unfortunate to see that El Tri still is having trouble scoring but they did play well defensively. They killed on a set piece but they will work on that just a bit more before they kick off against Cameroon next week. Chicharito came on and played well for Mexico in the closing minutes. He will have to find his stride for Mexico to have any success.
This might have been the easiest group for me to pick. Clearly the top spot goes to Spain. They are the world's number one and when you have players like Andrès Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, David Villa and Iker Casillas, you honestly have a shot to beat anyone. Villa has announced he will be retiring from international play following the World Cup but he scored both goals in Spain's most recent tune-up so I think he still has something left in the tank.
The runner-up will easily be Netherlands. The Dutch were also the runner-up to Spain in 2010, that in the World Cup final. The scary duo of Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie will likely be enough to carry this team offensively. Those two are more than capable of making plays on their own. I am really looking forward to watching the rematch of the 2010 final where I think Spain will drop its first point in a draw, but still win the pool on goal difference.
This one was a bit tougher to figure out. I really couldn't figure it out. I ended up choosing the Ivory Coast. They have remained for the most part healthy (see Radamel Falcao of Colombia). Additionally, both Colombia and Greece are in a little bit of a slump. Colombia is now without their top goal scorer and Greece has been struggling to find the back of the net. I think the staying power of Didier Drogba and the creativity of Yaya Touré will carry this team into bracket play.
Colombia will sneak in as well edging Greece for the second spot. This is their first time in the tournament since 1998 so there is not a single player on this roster that has World Cup experience. Despite all of that, I think they will find a way to win without their top player. This is a talented club who will be eager to show the world that it can compete. I know Greece is good, I just don't think good enough.
This group has a ton of big names but I am picking Uruguay to win this one. It has been widely stated that England is rebuilding and Italy is searching for goals. Uruguay is anchored defensively by Atletico Madrid's Diego Godin. He has been the mainstay defensively and will continue to impress on the international level. Additionally, Uruguay has one of the world's top scorers in Luis Suarez, who set the Premier League on fire this year scoring a league leading 31 goals this year.
I think the next spot does fall to Italy who proves to be too much for a very young England squad. England has some talented young players that could make them scary at the next World Cup but this year will be just a year of gaining experience as Italy rolls through to bracket play once again. Get ready for Mario Balotelli to get angry again and start on a goal scoring tear.
This was an interesting group to pick with Switzerland and France being the two bigger name teams. I see Switzerland taking the group with some definitive play. This team will not blow you away with its scoring ability but they play sound defense. They won both of their tune-up games over Jamaica and Peru respectively without allowing a goal. It is time to see what they can do against some better competition now.
After imploding at the 2010 World Cup, France will be looking for a bounce back tournament. After managing only two points four years ago I think they will likely grab six. They will be hurting with the loss of mainstay Franck Ribery, who will be missing the World Cup with a back injury. But that won't stop Karim Benzema from scoring goals and pushing France through group play.
This group features one of the world's top teams in Argentina who I see grabbing all nine points in this pool to win it and go on to the round of sixteen. Argentina has Lionel Messi. If you don't know who he is go Google his name and then just watch in awe for a few minutes. (Same applies for Christiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez) There is no one is this pool who has the same amount of play making ability to compete with Argentina.
The runner up would definitely have to be the next highest ranked team, Bosnia-Herzegovina. This team is fairly unknown, with only one big name star but they are a solid team who will simply outclass their other two competitors, Iran and Nigeria. They have Edin Dzeko, the same one who helped Manchester City win its first EPL title in 44 years, who is still a fierce striker and can carry this team.
Aptly named the group of death, this is the most highly competitive group that a world cup has seen in recent memory. Featuring two FIFA top five ranked teams, the number thirteenth ranked United States and the always dangerous Ghana; this group will be a slug fest. Likely though, Germany presses its will on its opponents with its stifling defensive and explosive offensive demonstrating why they think they are finals bound.
The runner-up will almost undoubtedly be Portugal. Sorry US fans, there just isn't enough certainty with that defense or offensive fire power to make the plays to advance. Portugal has some of the world's top players and even without Christiano Ronaldo (same as mentioned above) should be able to put away both Ghana and the US. They will be too well organized and skilled on the ball to fall to either of those clubs.
The final group probably had what I thought to be the most clear-cut winner in Belgium. This is a scary team that oozes both youth and athleticism. With a midfield that consists of Chelsea's Eden Hazard, Zenit's Axel Witzel, Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini and Wolfsberg's Kevin De Bruyne this is a squad to be reckon with. This might be the most complete starting eleven out of any team in the tournament.
The likely runner-up will be Algeria, just edging out South Korea and Russia for a chance to make it group play. After getting pummeled by Belgium, every one of these teams will be in a fight to win that second spot. This will be a tight contest that comes down to who will have more big play making ability. In group play, mental toughness does not matter too much yet. That will come in when it becomes win or go home.
Round of Sixteen
This round features some very entertaining match-ups, especially with the host Brazil and the Netherlands. I think Brazil wins that one in a close game to move on to the quarters sending the Dutch home much earlier than in 2010. The other team from Group B will likely fair better as Spain should steamroll a lucky to be there Mexico squad.
Group C winner Ivory Coast gets to find out just how good Mario Balotelli is when he is angry after likely being booked in at least one pool play game as Italy coasts to victory. On the other side, Uruguay should rough up a Colombia side still struggling to score as they face off without Falcao.
Switzerland gets something of a break playing the inexperienced Bosnia-Herzegovina as this is their first World Cup. Switzerland should advance to the quarters. Argentina matches up with a weakened French squad as they bury the French with some incredible goal scoring from Gonzolo Higuain and Messi.
Germany continues its dominance in Brazil as it rings out Algeria in what seems like almost a formality for Germany to reach the quarters. Meanwhile, Portugal makes an early exit as Ronaldo and Raul Miralles prove to not be fully recovered and exposed against a very deep Belgium squad.
The hosts bow out of the tournament as well as they get shocked by Italy for the Italians first return to the semi finals since winning it all in 2006. Another European power house advances as Spain sends Uruguay home after Uruguay struggles against the veteran Spanish defense. Spain is one game away from a return to the finals.
Germany once again meets a team that does not measure up to its elite level of play and mental toughness as they smack around Switzerland to move on to the semis. Belgium loses out on a chance to proceed any further as they run into an even more athletic and better skilled Argentinean squad who is hungry for a shot on knocking off the champions.
Germany and Italy meet in a thrilling European battle only to be won by the more mentally strong Germans. Germany does what it could not in South Africa and makes it to the championship game. In the other semifinal, Messi and company take it up another notch to edge Spain after needing extra time and send the reigning champions home empty handed.
Spain crushes Italy in the consolation game for third but the game that matters proves to be a thriller. Argentina gets revenge for 2010 and defeats the outmatched Germans. Argentina's athleticism and scoring ability proves to be too much for Philipp Lahm and friends as Argentina wins its first World Cup since 1986 and its third title overall.
That is all I have for now. Let me know if you agree or disagree. I am always open to comments.